When people think of fast food or burgers, the franchise “McDonald’s” pops into your head. Of course, McDonald’s is very controversial. Some people love it and others hate it. I personally have a love-hate relationship with them myself. But what if I told you that there was a game in which you could simulate the actions of the corporation? It’s literally called McDonald’s Video Game. Would you jump on the chance to play it like I did? Well. If I were to be honest, I didn’t really jump on it. I just picked it because it was free and I was curious as to what the game was like. The game came out in 2006 and was developed by Molleindustra. In this business simulation, you can see McDonald’s through four different views: the farmland, the slaughterhouse, the restaurant, and corporate headquarters. Here’s a link to the game.
The game itself starts off by having you pick a language to play in and if it wasn’t obvious, I chose English. What came next was this horrific music that I had to turn off right away. That just totally turned me off. As for the actual gameplay, I started off by reading the tutorial. I didn’t really understand it or maybe I just didn’t look at it carefully. I just skimmed over it and said “FUCK IT LET’S PLAY”. So when the game starts, I look through the different views. It looks as I’d have expected it to look. I start off by plowing some fields for soy and raising cows. I’m not sure how much I need so I end up using all my starting money on that. I think that’s a mistake but nothing I can do about that now. I fill up my restaurant with workers and see customers go in and start buying stuff. That’s cool I guess. What I didn’t realize was that I sold all of my product too quickly and now I’m out of patties. Everything goes to
hell. Headquarters tells me production is low and the guy at the slaughterhouse tells me there are no cows even though I was raising a bunch. I end up going bankrupt pretty quickly. I honestly thought the game was too difficult for me at that point.
Roger Caillois defines games as “an activity which is essentially: Free (voluntary), separate [in time and space], uncertain, unproductive, governed by rules, make-believe.” He also splits games into six different categories: agon, alea, mimicry, ilinx, ludus, and paideia. The McDonald’s game is a form of ludus and mimicry. Ludus means structured play with a set of rules and mimicry refers to the act of roleplaying. The McDonald’s Video Game is indeed voluntary, separate, uncertain, unproductive, has rules, and semi make-believe. I only say semi due to the fact that it’s based off of things that could happen in real life if you were a McDonald’s CEO. The name of the game even has the word game in it. So yes, I would consider this a game.
Alexander Galloway says that “a game is an activity defined by rules in which players try to reach some sort of goal”. I’m somewhat torn by his statement since the game is an activity defined by rules. However, there is no actual “goal” in this game. I suppose you can say the goal of the game is to not go bankrupt or to make money. When I think of a goal, the word “win” comes to mind. There’s no winning in this game. You either go bankrupt and lose or just keep making money forever and ever.
On my next attempt, I notice things that happen in the game that I didn’t really pay attention to before. I notice my employees spitting in the food they are making. Whoa there. That’s funny they would put that in the game, but that’s messed up. So I start disciplining these guys. I also notice my cows can get sick and I can torch them before they get killed and turned into patties. The fields I raise my cows on can lose the grass they eat so I have to swap that around. It feels like even though this game was made to be a parody, they put a lot work into the tiny details. I can corrupt and bribe people to help my company image which is pretty cool. This totally falls into the mimicry category that Caillois splits games up into. I’m noticing I need to strategize and plan things out carefully like anyone running a company would. I can’t just instantly buy everything I want and expect things to be okay.
Overall the experience was indeed fun even though it was difficult to understand at first. Most importantly, this is classified as a game. It’s a make-believe business simulation that is based off of what actually may happen inside of the McDonald’s corporation. A game does not have to be fun to be classified as a game. The fun factor can also change as you play a game. Maybe at first a game isn’t fun then it turns fun once you understand it. You can also think something is fun when you first start off but change your mind as you play it.